NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> The Newtown Borough Council is calling on the United States Congress to consider passing legislation that will “significantly” address the causes of climate change.
In a resolution, unanimously enacted by council, officials are calling climate change “a serious threat” to the Borough in terms of “economic, public health and environmental consequences of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere” and say they are “committed to fighting climate change and to protecting borough residents from the impacts of climate change and air pollution.”
While the resolution points to the threats posed by climate change and its potential impacts on the borough and calls on Congress to take legislative action, it does not support any specific bill now under consideration by the U.S. Congress.
Yardley Borough resident Tom Wells, a volunteer with the Bucks-Mont Chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), and Mike Hoy, also a volunteer with the CCL, had asked the council earlier in June to take action on the issue of climate change and specifically to support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividends Act of 2019.
The proposed act, they said, “would reduce emissions, save lives, act to protect borough residents from the impacts of climate change and provide a net economic boost to the borough and its residents.
“We want to prove to our federally- elected representatives that there is political will in the community for them to take decisive action to mitigate the affects of climate change,” Wells told council. “That’s why we’re asking you to sign this resolution.”
Congressman Fitzpatrick was the original co-sponsor of the bill when it was introduced last year. He has not, however, co-sponsored HR 763, which was reintroduced this year, said Wells.
There are currently 44 cosponsors of the bill, including 43 Democrats and one Republican.
“Every day we put more pollution into the atmosphere. It is hurting us right now and it is going to hurt our children and our grandchildren. If we don’t deal with this now, we will be leaving a horrible legacy for everyone who comes after us,” said Wells.
HR 763 would put a fee on fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas starting out low and then growing over time with the idea of driving down carbon pollution and pushing companies, industries, and consumers toward cleaner, cheaper options.
“It sends a signal to industry that the price of fossil fuels is going to go higher and higher and people are going to go, ‘I really like this car, but I could be driving an electric car and paying a third of the energy bill,’” said Wells. “Motor companies around the world are already planning on many, many models of electric vehicles because they know this is coming.”
Under the legislation, the money collected from the carbon fee would be allocated in equal shares every month to the American people to spend as they see fit. Program costs would be paid from the fees collected, but the government would not keep any of the money from the fee.
The council, however, was reluctant to weigh in on specific partisan federal legislation, and instead voted on a general resolution on climate change.
In its resolution, the council said as a result of climate change, “Bucks County and the Northeastern United States are experiencing higher average daytime and nighttime temperatures resulting in erratic weather patterns, increasing invasion of non-native plants and insects and an increase in the number of days a year with harmful species - such as ticks carrying Lyme and other diseases and mosquitos are active.”
The resolution continues, “More frequent heat waves in Newtown Borough and the Northeast are expected to threaten human health through an increase in heat stress. More excessive heat impacts outdoor activities such as individual and team sports played on local fields, and residents and tourists who use outdoor facilities for biking, hiking and sightseeing, as well as those residents who work in the construction and landscaping industries or hire persons who perform such work.”
The resolution also says that “an increase in the amount of and frequency of rainfall measured during precipitation events are expected to increase local flooding of streams. This will also regionally contribute to higher water levels in the Delaware Bay, threatening storm water drainage systems, roads, Delaware River fresh water intake locations, buildings, bridges and infrastructure.”
And “with the rise in temperatures and the increase in erratic rainfall patterns, agriculture in Bucks County and Pennsylvania is already experiencing reduced yields, potentially damaging livelihoods and the regional economy. We have already seen agriculture impacts which affect local farmers who sell organic food at farmers markets in Bucks County.”
The resolution concludes by saying “Congress has the responsibility to act swiftly and meaningfully on the issue of climate change. Legislation addressing climate change should not be economically burdensome to Newtown Borough residents, but must significantly improve environmental and associated economic outcomes.”
Council also “respectfully requests that our U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick cosponsor and vote for an appropriate House Bill, which will significantly address the cause of climate change and that our two senators, Robert Casey and Pat Toomey, cosponsor and vote for the Senate companion bill to that bill as soon as it is introduced in the U.S. Senate.”
In voting for the resolution, Republican Councilor Bob King agreed with preparing for climate change, but cautioned constituents from attributing naturally occurring changes in the weather to climate change and encouraged them to look beyond what is reported by the national media.